Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho praised a “world best” display by goalkeeper David de Gea after his side’s hard-fought 3-1 win away to Arsenal on Saturday.
Victory left United five points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City, who will go eight points clear again if they beat West Ham on Sunday, ahead of next week’s Manchester derby.
But the win was far from routine even though early goals from Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard put United 2-0 up at the Emirates Stadium as soon as the 11th minute.
De Gea made several brilliant saves before Arsenal eventually pulled one back through Alexandre Lacazette four minutes after half time.
But Lingard’s second goal in the 63rd minute eventually made the game safe for the visitors before United midfielder Paul Pogba was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Hector Bellerin.
It was De Gea, however, who Mourinho singled out for special praise, telling BT Sport: “I told him after the match, what I saw today was the best from a goalkeeper in the world.
“You need the keeper to be there for you when the team needs,” the Portuguese boss added. “All the effort from the players was magnificent.”
As for Pogba’s dismissal, which will rule him out of the Manchester derby, Mourinho said Arsenal had been fortunate not to go a man down as well following a challenge by Laurent Koscielny on Romelu Lukaku.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I leave for you the Lukaku situation with Koscielny, I leave for you the Arsenal players on the grass. The grass is absolutely beautiful – I think there is a desire to go onto the grass.”
There was no hiding former Chelsea manager Mourinho’s joy, however, at an impressive all-round United display.
“I loved the way my team played and fought,” he said. “Arsenal played in some periods amazing attacking football – creating difficulties for us.
“But I have to say that my players deserve all the great words. I don’t know so many in English but amazing, phenomenal, fantastic. They deserved three points.”
Wenger: De Gea was man-of-the-match by a mile
For Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who has had an often fractious relationship with Mourinho, there was pride in the way his side recovered from a horror start but ultimately a sense of frustration at their failure to take anything out of the game.
“I think we didn’t start well at all at the back and we are guilty of that,” Wenger told the BBC.
“Despite being 2-0 down we should have come back – we had enough chances. We produced excellent quality, but were not decisive enough,” the veteran French boss added.
“It was a mystery yes (not scoring more goals), but David de Gea was man-of-the-match by a clear mile.”
“We played well but there is nothing more frustrating when you have that quality of performance and nothing to show for it at the end.”
“The attitude was impeccable until the end. But you cannot make the mistakes we made at the beginning.”